Film

Interview with Song of Granite’s Jaren Cerf

Q: You play Rosie in Pat Collins’ film Song of Granite, which is about the life of Sean Nos singer Joe Heaney. How did you become involved with the film and what was your first reaction to the script?

A: IT is a funny story – to me anyway. I said when I turned 30 I wanted to try my hand at acting because it was always a dream. Not long after I managed to get an agent, I was sent a character breakdown for the film.

It was being filmed in Montreal and the character was American, in her thirties, with a daughter between the ages of and 6 and 9, with a background in folk and Irish music. I was floored when I read this, of course, because I thought: “Well hell, that is me!’

I auditioned and it was when I got the role and received the entire script that I took a deeper look at this Joe Heaney character. What a character he was!

Q: Joe Heaney is a mysterious figure. What did you know about him heading into the film?

A: ABSOLUTELY nothing, I had never heard of him. Of course, as soon as I was involved in the film, people from all over came crawling out of the woodwork. Friends of friends who toured with him gave me a little feedback about what that was like. It was quite heart-warming.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about your character and your role in the film?

A: ROSIE is a sort of a composite of three different women in Joe’s life. From what I understand, they all had some sort of interest in helping him record all these traditional Irish songs he had learnt over the years.

One person in particular who Rosie is based on helped him transcribe nearly 200 songs. For people who are not familiar with traditional Irish music, a song can be as little as a few verses all the way up to twenty or more.

So some of the stories are long, but they are rarely boring. One of my favourite quotes is from G.K. Chesterton: “The great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad, For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.” One of the most popular examples, of course, is Barbry Ellen.

Q: What was your experience working with Pat Collins and on the film in general?

A: PAT and his team were so charming and wonderful. You can see that Pat, wife Sharon and Eoghan (all writers of the film), care immensely about Joe Heaney.

jaren cerf
Image by Laurent Guerin

I really think he did a wonderful job of allowing real moments on screen. When you watch the film, there are scenes where you feel like you are a witness – as though your memory will play tricks on you down the line and you will remember actually being in that pub or that house, whatever the location, in person. It is quite mesmerizing. Of course, the cinematography is something enormously special too.

Q: As a folk singer yourself how special was it to be a part of telling this story?

A: INCREDIBLE. I am on this huge learning curve about music history now, thanks in part to the film. It has fanned the flames, for sure. I would love to do more films relating to music, especially if they could be this honest.

Q: Can you tell us about the music in the film? Did you contribute in any way?

A: I SING in the background – though not much. A few things were edited out. But I can tell you the soundtrack is outstanding. It is emotion set to music. In Joe’s case, it is the sound of longing – it is in another dimension. I love the soundtrack so much.

As for other songs – I WISH I got to be on set when they were filming the pub scenes. Those voices cut bone-deep, let me tell you.

Q: Has the film wetted you appetite for more acting or will you continue to focus on music?

A: OH yes, definitely. Here I thought: “Maybe one film will get it out of my system.” Not the case (laughs). The acting bug is very much alive and growing.

Q: Lastly, do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

A: WELL I have taken a pause from music and film to finish writing a book for funsies about transitioning to zero waste. So that is on the table right now. As soon as there is a publishing date, I will let you know!

Visit Jaren Cerf’s Website

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